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Ask James Caan – Issue 71

Written by Kimberley Startup | November 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

Dear Member,

With latest statistics from the CIPD stating that employers intend to scale back recruitment decisions, there are many hiring managers looking protect their assets and strengthen their existing teams.

In light of this, I have chosen to answer a letter from Simon, a concerned team leader facing increased pressure for two reasons.

He wrote:

‘I am a customer services team leader for a call centre. My remit is to manage a team of six agents, in which I am struggling to engage with one particular member.

‘He has worked with the company for 14 months now but is fast-losing interest in the job. He’s never late, is always punctual and does the job, but it is his negative attitude and lack of interest.

‘I do blame myself – the company is under considerable pressure and so meeting targets has meant things like appraisals don’t happen as often as they should, so how can I reinvigorate them?’

Simon, you are absolutely right to realise there’s a problem and seek ways to get your team and the individual back on track.

The economy has forced many businesses to look at their internal teams, streamline processes and identify how to deliver more for less, which means managers around the country will be under enormous strain to deliver.

It’s not an easy situation to be in, and it will test your leadership abilities, but finding the root cause of this employee’s behaviour must be done straight away. After all, a triumphant workforce is testament to a manager’s ability not only to lead, but to tackle issues head on.

Before calling the member of staff in, you must ask yourself whether their change in attitude is a lack of motivation or a lack of the required skills. By the sound of it they’re pitching in, so the problem may be deeper than you thought.

There are a number of things you can introduce or work back into your team regime, but change won’t happen overnight. And whilst some employees are resistant to change, at the end of the day, to ensure success you need to have the right people on the bus.

Firstly, get back into the habit of conducting appraisals. Whilst time may be of the essence – especially with a streamlined team under immense pressure – taking the time to sit down with your staff will reduce issues and potential disruption.

Does this employee know what’s expected of them? Have there been changes internally that may not have been communicated to the team as well as you thought?

If there’s constant disruption within the business environment, it can have a big effect on morale. Don’t isolate this ‘problem’ member of staff; organise one-to-ones with your entire team to ensure everyone is aware of the business aims and that they are happy within their role.

One reason for their lack of interest may actually be caused by something that’s going on at home, so it’s important to treat the situation delicately. Alternatively, if the reason is the company itself, work with them to find out what they like about the role, what they don’t, and what could be improved. Make sure your team knows that your door is always open.

Something I used to do with my teams was put up wall charts that displayed the contribution each member played. Seeing it visually not only created a competitive culture, but it made those falling behind realise they needed to step up.

At the end of the day, a successful manager will have the confidence to identify an underperformer and resolve the matter, and Simon you no doubt possess the right qualities, so I wish you the best of luck.

James

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